Zielinski | Chicago Reader

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66 minutes

John M. Zielinski was once a respected photojournalist with credits in Life and the New York Times, but when documentary makers Ryan Walker and Chase Thompson get to him, he's scraping by on a thousand bucks a month and traveling around the midwest to hawk his conspiracy theories at local newspapers and city council meetings. Zielinski's cause celebre is the 1988 scandal that erupted in Omaha, Nebraska, around the Franklin Community Credit Union, said to be a cesspool of pedophilia, drug trafficking, and sex slavery. In 1990 a federal grand jury ruled that the lurid case was a hoax, but Walker and Thompson don't get into that; they prefer to milk the scandal for vague chills even as they undercut Zielinski with squalid stories from his private life (his wife left him, his younger son is autistic, his negatives were largely wiped out in a home fire). The result is an odd thematic cul-de-sac: by framing the documentary as a character study, the directors avoid the hard journalism that might permit an accurate judgment of Zielinski's character.

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